BE Modern Man: Marcell Pickens Jr.
Photographer and filmmaker, small business advocate, 37
Twitter: @TheFilmmarketer; Instagram: @TheFilmmarketer
A few years ago, I was inspired after reading about Black Wall Street and the level of success that African Americans were able to achieve in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Simultaneously, I became baffled by our inability to recreate the same level of success after almost 100 years. I immediately knew that I had to do my part but I didn’t know exactly how or by what means. I created Blachwood L.L.C., which pays homage to Black Wall Street by combining the Black Wall Street and Greenwood Ave [that community’s main thoroughfare] to serve as a reminder of the purpose of the company. Even after the name was established, I still didn’t know how to serve our community with maximum impact. I researched and found great movements that encouraged our community to buy black and keep black dollars circulating in our communities; however, I knew that wasn’t my lane.
For over 11 years I have practiced professional photography and commercial making for small and big businesses. As a small business photographer and filmmaker, or filmmarketer, I’ve shot hundreds of weddings and events and have created videos that helped small businesses grow their awareness and increase their profits. After seeing the impact my work was having toward the success of individuals and businesses, I realized my lane was with my talents. We then created the Blachwood Small Business Marketing Tour. This tour was designed to bring “Big Business” photography and video to small businesses at an affordable price. I fervently believe that one of the reasons small businesses in our community fail is because of a lack of exposure. With that being said, not many small businesses can afford $3,000 photo shoots and $5,000 commercials. The Blachwood tour gives small businesses in select cities access to necessary resources to help them get their message out there. We’ve designed an amazing package that includes both video and photography to really help catapult their businesses to another level. I’m extremely proud of the model and the impact it has had so far.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN LIFE?
I am most proud of my family: my wife of 12 years Evvett, two beautiful children Isabella Skye and Maxwell Cree and our golden doodle, Tucker. Success isn’t much without balance. My family unit represents balance, purpose, and legacy.
HOW HAVE YOU TURNED STRUGGLE INTO SUCCESS?
Honestly, I believe that one of my biggest struggles in life has been failing to listen to my inner spirit and following my own purpose early on. I remember being told in high school, “You are great in math; you should become an engineer.” For this very reason I decided to earn a mechanical engineering degree; all the while my heart leaned toward creativity.
In our community, we are taught to pursue high-paying careers regardless of our talents because it’s safe. Don’t get me wrong; this is sound advice, but the reality is that this type of advice stems from a history of struggle and is passed down from generation to generation. I struggled with the expectations of my elders and the direction my inner spirit was guiding me toward. I have since found peace in my experience as an engineer but have become alive in my experience as a photographer and filmmaker.
WHO WAS YOUR GREATEST MALE ROLE MODEL AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM HIM?
Dr. Decatur B. Rogers was the meanest man I had ever met, or so I thought. Dr. Rogers was the Dean and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Tennessee State University. It wasn’t until I began to do the impossible in my studies that I realized he wasn’t mean, but he understood that without hard work, dedication, and discipline, success was not attainable. Dr. Rogers demanded all of these traits out of me and ever since then, my commitment to success has been unstoppable.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE MANHOOD?
I define manhood as staying true to your responsibilities, standing strong in the face of adversity, being courageous during difficult moments, having the audacity to pursue your purpose, and finally accepting that the life you live is for the benefit of those who succeed you.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT BEING A BLACK MAN?
Society often perpetuates a negative image of black men. However, when a black man achieves a certain level of success, his accomplishments are resounding and undeniable. Although we often play by a different set of rules, I welcome the challenge of being an example to younger black men and proving that we are not who society says we are, and that our melanin is far more valuable than gold.
Proverbs 23:7 is one of my favorites: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” I meet so many men who begin to think and believe what society says about them, so they then become just that. I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to encourage anyone, specifically black men, reading this by declaring and affirming that you are more than your failures. Fail forward and never give up. Listen to your inner self, hone and perfect your craft and eventually, mountains will begin to move.